When Seneca Valley suffered a crushing 38-21 defeat to Moon Area last Friday, it would’ve been easy to hang their heads and mail it in this week at practice. Instead, the Raiders got back to work, ground out a tough week of practice and, according to SV head coach Ron Butschle, grew up over the last week.
All that growing simply led to a 24-20 victory over reigning WPIAL 5A Northeast Section champion Pine-Richland at NexTier Stadium Friday night in a non-conference matchup against the Rams.
It didn’t always look promising for SV, especially when P-R senior quarterback Colton Boyd raced through the Raiders’ defense for a 52-yard dagger of a rushing touchdown with just a few ticks under two minutes remaining in the game to pull the Rams back from a late deficit and reclaim the lead.
While the “two-minute drill” is often talked about and more often reenacted by kids in someone’s backyard, it’s the exact situation Butschle’s team found themselves in Friday night.
“All we told them was … relax and execute,” Butschle told PGH Sports Now. “And they did. Not that there wasn’t a sense of urgency because obviously there was. One of the really great plays was when [Ross] caught that ball and got out of bounds to stop the clock. The fact that we put pressure on them in practice, in those situations, that paid off.”
In the aforementioned play, which took place early on the game-winning drive, SV junior quarterback Graham Hancox escaped the pocket and scrambled toward the sideline before noticing senior wide receiver Brandon Ross in a pocket of some space up the field. Hancox threaded a ball to Ross, who promptly evaded P-R defenders in order to get out of bounds and stop the running clock. It moved the Raiders down the field, but more importantly, it allowed them to slow down and get back in the game.
A few plays later, with just 15 seconds left in the game, SV stared down a 3rd-and-10. Hancox lofted a perfect pass over a P-R defender and Ross’s outstretched hands secured the game-winning touchdown as the seconds slowly ticked away on the scoreboard.
“I mean, the situation was stressful, but one of the things — and I mean this sincerely — is when we got the ball back with a minute fifty, there wasn’t any panic by the kids, by the coaches,” Bustchle said. “We practice that, we practice that situation. I really felt as long as we got the ball back, we had an opportunity to score again.”
A back-and-forth game in which defense reigned supreme at times, the SV defense applying heavy pressure to the P-R backfield and causing havoc for Boyd throughout the game, it came down to Butschle’s team dialing in when the pressure was on — on both offense and defense.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the kids, they executed and that’s what we asked them to do,” Butschle said. “They gave great effort all night, Pine-Richland is a good team, and they’re big, and they’re physical, and our kids battled. The score that they got for a lot of teams might’ve just taken the air out, but the fact that we were gonna get the ball back, we felt pretty confident we could score.”
And score they did, the clutch touchdown drawing an eruption from a packed house inside NexTier Stadium, the home fans racuous in their applause. For a team coming off such a disappointing loss in week one, the cause for celebration was long overdue in such an intense ending.
“I’ve had a couple of [close games],” Butschle said. “Doing this as long as I have, you end up with a couple of great finishes like that. That really… for the program, for the school, for me personally, that was probably one of the most exciting finishes that we’ve had here ever.”
Despite the euphoria that comes not just from a last-second — nine, to be exact — victory but upsetting one of the best teams in Pennsylvania, it’s business as usual come next week. Butschle isn’t one to rest upon his laurels, and his team certainly won’t either.
“I tell them they get to enjoy it until Monday,” Butschle said. “When they show up on Monday, it’s time to move onto the next one, and we want to stack those wins.”
After all, without practice, how are you going to continue growing up?